What Retailers Can Learn From Disney

0aaDavid Weiss McMillanDoolittle

The lines can be long. The weather can be hot. And the cost — let’s not get into it. So why do we visit Disney in droves? And what can retailers learn from the entertainment behemoth as they face increased competition, changing demographics and rapid technological evolution?

We should view Disney World as an omnichannel 2.0 pioneer, using the IoT and AR/VR to amplify a visit’s magic and ease its pain. The park’s first IoT-based customer experience began in 2013 with an experiment integrating Bluetooth-enabled devices in its physical spaces. Coupled with the introduction of the MagicBand — a device initially conceived to help parents find lost children, now evolved to a “master key” for unlocking your own personalized experience — Disney created a frictionless journey for its visitors. The Most Magical Place on Earth keeps parents calm by providing technology-enabled convenience.

And while keeping the parents happy is important, Disney is looking beyond tech-enabled convenience. The same IoT technology can be used to create the magical customer experience story. The MagicBand — one of the more useful wearables in the market — can be worn by every visitor, no matter their age. This allows Disney to learn about the preferences and desires of allof their guests and continue to improve and individualize experiences in return.


In the future, the MagicBand will let Cinderella know that it is your daughter excitedly asking for a selfie and the princess will greet her by name. If your daughter comes back in two years, Cinderella will be able to say that she remembers her visit from last time — a moment so magical, you completely forget about the long lines. Throw AR into the mix and you can begin to envision what a trip to Disney could look like. VR? Already in place in the form of amusement rides.

So what can Disney teach retailers about using technology in delivery of the customer experience?

In order to prioritize efforts and resources, we have isolated three key areas of focus where technology can make the biggest impact.

The first focus area is convenience — delivering a frictionless customer journey across all touch points.

Next is value. The MagicBand makes Disney’s operations more efficient — filling rides to capacity and smoothing the flow in quick serve restaurants. This optimization could allow them to compete on price, should they ever so choose.

And finally, the third is…yes, experience. Creating a Cinderella memory or giving consumers a reason to linger gives the retailer more chances to convert a one-time purchaser to a lifelong loyalist.

Technology for technology sake is fool’s gold —just ask the shopper how smart that mirror really is when its content obscures her outfit. Retailers that develop an understanding of how Disney continues to draw visitors year-after-year can focus their technology investments and make some magic of their own.


David Weiss is an accomplished retail executive bringing nearly 20 years of industry experience to each client project. He has worked for multi-billion-dollar global companies, venture-funded start-ups and private-equity owned turnarounds. He is known for identifying opportunities, creating focus, and building cohesive business strategies. Prior to joining McMillanDoolittle as a partner, Weiss held merchandising and operational positions at Old Navy, Levi Strauss, Abercrombie & Fitch, Gap, JCPenney and Monica + Andy. 

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